One of the secrets behind Kobe Bryant’s 20 seasons as a star of the Los Angeles Lakers and his five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals and one Academy Award is his grooming regimen, which includes manicures, pedicures and luxurious face creams.
“You have to take care of your body as an athlete,” Bryant said during a recent phone interview. “Your body, in turn, will take care of you.”
That mind-set explains how the retired basketball player has become a founding partner of Art of Sport, an L.A.-based unisex body-care start-up geared toward athletes.
Bryant unveiled the line in September at the Lakers’ training center in El Segundo, where Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma practiced sinking balls into the net.
Having moved from the hardwood to Hollywood — as well as marking his 40th birthday this year — Bryant has changed his grooming routine. “I have less hair,” he quipped.
He has also replaced Right Guard, Speed Stick and what he dubs “the usual stuff” with his brand’s concoctions that favor natural ingredients such as matcha tea powder over potentially harmful parabens and aluminum.
Sold on Amazon.com and Art of Sport’s website, the lineup of goods includes a body soap bar that lathers with deep-cleaning charcoal and moisturizes with shea butter to prevent dryness and chafing after multiple post-workout showers ($8.95 for a two-pack) and a 2-in-1 hair and body wash that’s a silky gel containing tea tree oil and aloe vera ($8.95 for a 10-ounce tube).
There’s also a recovery cream blended with arnica and eucalyptus to soothe sore muscles ($12.95 for a 3-ounce tube). The priciest item in the range is the SPF 50 sunscreen ($13.95 for a five-ounce tube) that eschews oxybenzone because the chemical can be harmful to coral reefs.
For Matthias Metternich, an Art of Sport co-founder and the company’s chief executive, it was important to take a holistic approach in formulating the line because, as he put it, “You can’t put rocket booster seats in a Toyota Yaris and expect to go to the moon.”
Another co-founder, Brian Lee, has celebrity-centric business ventures including creating eco-friendly baby products at the Honest Co. with Jessica Alba and launching the online fashion site ShoeDazzle with Kim Kardashian West. He said that when it comes to diving into a large category like sports and reaching the right demographic, Bryant is in a league of his own. “He’s aspirational to other athletes with all his MVPs and NBA rings,” Lee said.
Bryant fancies himself a bit of a skin-care guru. “When I was on the Olympics team, [players] saw me using La Mer products,” he recalled.
“What is that?” he said his teammates asked of the seaweed-infused face cream. Bryant generously shared his moisturizer that cost $175 an ounce. “Now they all use it,” he said.
Taking that influence a step further, Bryant wants to direct short films with Art of Sport’s team of athletes who endorse the products. That list includes Houston Rockets guard James Harden and pro surfer Sage Erickson. Contemplating future films with themes such as what it means to be competitive, he said, “Those are all things with inspirational messages that kids want to hear.”
Some of the toughest judges are those closest to Bryant, such as his wife, Vanessa, whom he credits for teaching him how to take care of his skin. Bryant recounts how, one day, after he’d swiped on the brand’s deodorant scented with citrus and green pear, his wife asked, “What is that smell?” Bryant said his immediate thought was, “I’m interested in what the verdict is.”
He told her it was the Compete deodorant from the skin-care line. “I love it,” she told him.
The Art of Sport line has creative fragrance combinations such as cedar and vanilla — smells that might be overwhelming to some. However, the fragrance could be refreshing in a throng of sweaty athletes.
And what’s next? Thinking about future launches, Bryant said, “Face cream for athletes and different kinds of lotions in that nature will be things that we’re looking to get into.” Until then, he confessed, “I use the [La Mer] face cream every morning, every night.”
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